Can Thyroid Disorders Impact Male Fertility?

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Thyroid disorders are mostly found among women but a portion of the male population can also get it. Thyroid disorders can be categorised into two groups: Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is a term used to describe an overactive thyroid producing more than normal thyroid hormones, while hypothyroidism explains an underactive thyroid producing insufficient thyroid hormones.


Understanding The Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Thyroid Axis

Before exploring the possibilities of an overactive or underactive thyroid, it is important to understand its origin and how the thyroid gland and its hormones are regulated. This axis starts with the hypothalamus, which is located in the brain and is responsible for the secretion of thyroid-releasing hormone (TRH). In return, the TRH stimulates the pituitary gland to secrete Thyrotropin Stimulating Hormone (TSH) which is responsible for stimulating the thyroid, resulting in the secretion of thyroid hormones, T3 and T4.

The secretion of T4 from the thyroid is typically more than the secretion of T3. This phenomenon is due to the fact that T4 is converted in the body to radical-free T3, which will then interact with thyroid receptors resulting in the stimulation or antagonising thereof. Thyroid disorders can be a result of a problem or miscommunication in any part of the axis.


Hypothyroidism and its Causes

Hypothyroidism is much more common in the population than hyperthyroidism and usually occurs when there are decreased levels of T3 and T4 and increased levels of TSH. The symptoms of hypothyroidism usually present as cold extremities, gaining of weight, bradycardia, weakness, tiredness and carpal tunnel syndrome.


Causes of Primary Hyperthyroidism

Primary hypothyroidism is a result when the thyroid gland is not secreting enough thyroid hormones. This can be due to an auto-immune disease known as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. This disease causes antibodies to attack thyroid cells, resulting in them to secrete fewer thyroid hormones. This disease is usually associated with a firm goitre.


Causes of Secondary Hyperthyroidism

Secondary and tertiary hypothyroidism is caused when the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus secrete insufficient TSH and TRH, respectively. Certain medications, known as Eltroxin containing T4, can be taken orally to treat hypothyroidism.


Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism on Male Fertility

An overactive thyroid can affect a male’s fertility in various ways, including premature ejaculation, reduced semen volume, a decrease in libido and sexual dysfunction. An underactive thyroid can cause delayed ejaculation, poor semen quality,  impaired sexual desire and erectile dysfunction.

All of these symptoms have an effect on male fertility as they inhibit a male from performing sexual activities as normal. This prohibition can also have a negative emotional effect on men.


How Do Thyroid Disorders Affect Male Infertility?

Thyroid disorders, such as hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) or hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), can disrupt hormone levels crucial for reproductive function in men. These hormonal imbalances may lead to reduced sperm production, impaired sperm motility (movement), and abnormal sperm morphology (shape), all of which can contribute to male infertility.


What are the Symptoms of Thyroid Disorders in Men?

What Are The Symptoms of Thyroid Disorders in Men?
Symptoms of thyroid disorders in men may include fatigue, weight changes, changes in libido, erectile dysfunction, hair loss, and mood swings. However, some men may not exhibit obvious symptoms, making it essential to undergo thyroid function tests if fertility issues are suspected.


Can Untreated Thyroid Disorders Lead to Male Infertility?

Yes, untreated thyroid disorders can indeed lead to infertility in men. Hormonal imbalances resulting from thyroid dysfunction can disrupt the delicate balance necessary for sperm production and function, thus affecting fertility. Seeking prompt medical intervention and appropriate treatment is crucial to address underlying thyroid issues and potentially improve fertility outcomes.


Food that Supports Thyroid Health

Food rich in Iodine can support thyroid health by increasing the iodine levels within the body and supporting the thyroid in its secretion of thyroid hormones. Foods rich in iodine include yoghurt and milk, fish and shellfish are very rich in iodine as well as Brazil nuts. Studies show that zinc is also a good supplement to support thyroid health and can be seen in chicken, beef and pharmaceutical supplements. Even some antioxidants like berries seem to have a positive effect on thyroid health


Emotional Support

If a patient is experiencing emotional struggles due to thyroid or sexual problems, it is recommended to talk to someone you trust. Reaching out for support and creating awareness on the topic can relieve feelings of stress, anxiety and the feeling of “being alone” in this situation. 


When to see a Doctor

It is recommended that if you are experiencing any symptoms such as weight gain and constipation or bulging eyes and heart palpitations out of the ordinary, it is best to consult your doctor, especially for possible thyroid problems. If you are diagnosed with a thyroid disorder and it is causing strain on your sexual relations, it is also recommended to consult your doctor and discuss possible treatments that are available to achieve euthyroidism and restore sexual function to its normal state.

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